Liang Fa (simplified Chinese: 梁发; traditional Chinese: 梁發; pinyin: Liáng Fā; Jyutping: Leung4 Faat3; 1789–1855) was the first Chinese Protestant minister and evangelist. He was ordained by Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China. His evangelism was responsible for the conversion of Hong Xiuquan, leader of the Taiping Rebellion.
Liang was born in Gaoming, Zhaoqing, Guangdong, China in 1789. Coming from a poor family, he quit formal schooling at the age of 15 and went to work, first as a pen-maker, then in printing in Guangzhou. In 1810, he was employed in a printing house in Guangzhou. Even though it was illegal at the time to print materials related to Christianity, Robert Morrison sought Liang's help to print the Chinese version of the Bible that Morrison translated. It was through these close contacts with Morrison and his associate, William Milne, that Liang began to have some understanding of the Christian faith.
In 1815, as a result of the restrictions against preaching of Christianity in China, Milne moved to Malacca, Malaysia to continue his missionary work among overseas Chinese. Liang was employed by Milne and went with him to Malacca. Gradually, Liang became a devoted Christian in Malacca. He was baptised by Milne on November 3, 1816.
Liang's interest in evangelism continued to grow. In 1821, Liang was ordained by Morrison in Macau to become a minister with the London Missionary Society. Liang was accompanied by another Chinese Christian, Keuh Agong on a 250-mile trek in 1830, distributing Christian tracts across China. Liang's evangelising eventually went beyond Guangdong to Singapore and Malacca. He also started writing books and pamphlets introducing people to Christianity. One of the books was "Good Words Exhorting Mankind" (1832), which might have prompted Hong Xiuquan to join the society of "Worshippers of Shang-ti". Hong later became the leader of the Taiping Rebellion which tried to establish a theocracy.
In 1834, Liang's missionary work was threatened by the Imperial Chinese Government and he fled to Malaysia. While there at Malacca he worked alongside English missionary Samuel Dyer with his printing and translation efforts. He returned to China five years later at the dawn of the Opium War. Liang did not support the war. He argued that if Britain waged war against China, the Chinese would not believe in the Bible and the British missionaries any more. His effort was ultimately in vain.
Benjamin Hobson (1816-1873), a medical missionary sent by the London Missionary Society in 1839, set up a highly successful Wai Ai Clinic (惠愛醫館). Liang, Hok Chau 周學 (also known as Lai-Tong Chau, 周勵堂) and others worked there. Due to the ban on evangelism by the Qing (清) Chinese Government up to 1845, there was persecution. Liang was thus given a beating of 30 strikes, as ordered by the court. Liang (age 63) baptized Chau in 1852. The Methodist Church based in England sent missionary George Piercy to China. In 1851, Piercy went to Guangzhou (Canton), where he worked in a trading company. In 1853, he started a church in Guangzhou. In 1877, Chau was ordained by the Methodist Church, where he pastored for 39 years (incumbent 1877-1916).
After the war, Liang continued his missionary work in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He died in 1855 in Guangzhou. In the process of expanding the campus of Lingnan University (formerly Canton Christian College and now Zhongshan University) it came to light that his original grave was on property purchased for the expansion. He was reinterred in the center of the college campus on the site reserved for the college chapel. The site was dedicated June 7, 1920.
In addition to The Benevolent Words to Advise the World (勸世良言), Liang also published:
- The Essentials on Mastering Theology (《熟學聖理略論》 Shouxue Shengli Luelun)
- Simple Explanations to the Questions and Answers of the Truth (《真理問答淺解》 Zhenli Wen Da Qian Jie)
- Seeking the Source of the True Way (《真道尋源》 Zhendao Xun Yuan)
- On Souls (《靈魂篇》 Linghun Pian)
- On Heresy (《異端論》 Yiduan Lun)
- Convenient Uses of Introductory Bible Sunday Classes (《聖經日課初學便用》 Shengjing Rike Chuxue Bianyong)
- Prayers and God-Praising Poems (《祈禱文贊神詩》 Qidao Wen Zanzhu Shi)
Liang also created The Monthly Total Record of the Inspection of the Worldly Customs (《察世俗每月統記傳》 Cha Shisu Meiyue Tongji Zhuan), one of the first Chinese magazines.
- Wylie (1867), p. 11-12
- Davies (1846), 142
- Rebecca Chan Chung, Deborah Chung and Cecilia Ng Wong, "Piloted to Serve", 2012
- Davies, Evan (1846). The Memoir of Samuel Dyer: Sixteen Years Missionary to the Chinese. London: John Snow.
- McNeur, George Hunter (1934) China's First Preacher Liang A-Fa. Shanghai: Kwang Hsueh
- Wylie, john (1867). Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press.
- Reason, Joyce (1960). Bold smuggler: Liang A-Fa of China. London: Edinburgh House Press.